Top 10 Most Memorable Man-Made Disasters in History

Take a look at the below list of Top 10 Most Memorable Man-Made Disasters in History until 2017. In order to be memorable, the number of people affected by a disaster does not have to be high. The failure of man’s greatest creations has often resulted in the demise of innocents in a way that remains burned in human memory for all time. This list examines the top 10 most memorable man-made disasters in history. The death toll caused by all of these disasters may not be great, but the circumstances of the disaster are what make them a part of history that can never be forgotten and will live in the minds of humanity forever.

List of Top 10 Most Memorable Man-Made Disasters in History until 2017

10. Fidenae Amphitheater Collapse

Fidenae Amphitheater Collapse Top Popular Memorable Man-Made Disasters in History 2019

The Fidenaie Amphitheater Collapse is one of the earliest mass scale man-made disasters, occurring in 27AD. The amphitheater was a cheap wooden construction that was built to celebrate the end of Emperor Tiberius’ ban on the gladiator sports. It was constructed hastily, so it is not surprising that when 50,000 fans filled it during the opening ceremonies, the structure failed and it collapsed. Nearly 20,000 died in the collapse. The architect who built the stadium was banished from the Empire.

9. Banqiao Dam Collapse

Banqiao Dam Collapse Top 10 Most Memorable Man-Made Disasters in History 2017

The Banqiao Dam was constructed in 1952 to control flooding in the Huai River Basin in Henan province China. The dam supplied 18 GW of power to the region. It was considered to be unbreakable and was nicknamed the Iron Dam. Under normal conditions of flooding known to the region, this was true, but in August 1975 Typhoon Nina dumped over three times their normal rainfall within a 24-hour period and the dam broke. Communications were down and evacuation orders could not be delivered in time. Nearly 26,000 people died as a result of the initial flood, and 145,000 died from disease epidemics and famine as a result.

8. Bhopal Disaster

Bhopal Disaster Top Most Memorable Man-Made Disasters in History 2017

In December 1984, the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India developed a leak of Methyl Isocyanate (MIC). The leak was a result of water entering the tank, instantly initiating a chemical reaction that raised the temperatures and increased pressure inside the tank. The tank vented, releasing the toxic gas into the wind over Bhopal. Nearly 8,000 died from asphyxiation immediately, with estimates eventually reaching 30,000. Over 200,000 have suffered permanent illness as a result of the leak.

7. The Killer Smog


London has been plagued with high pollution episodes, known as ‘pea soupers’, since the industrial revolution. However, in 1952 London suffered one of the worst pea souper events in history. It was a cold winter in December of that year, which means that in an effort to keep warm, people were burning more coal. Coal emits sulfur dioxide, and the coal use during that time was worse than what is available today. These fumes, combined with diesel car exhaust developed into a mist that began seeping into indoor areas and causing problems with people breathing. The smog lasted for about five days, killing nearly 4,000 people initially, and another 100,000 in the next few weeks following the event. This event lead to passage of the Clean Air Act in an attempt to make certain that it never happened again.

6. Halifax Explosion

Halifax Explosion Top 10 Most Memorable Man-Made Disasters in History

One of the world’s largest man-made explosions occurred in December 1917 in the Narrows of Halifax harbor. In this disaster, the Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship collided with a Norwegian vessel, Imo, as the Norwegian vessel tried to leave the harbor. The Mont-Blanc was carrying 2,300 ton of wet and dry picric acid, 200 tons of TNT, 10 tons of gun cotton, and 35 tons of benzoyl, which is highly explosive. The vessels scraped each other and sparks from the steel hulls rubbing against each other ignited the benzoyl onboard the Mont-Blanc. The fire could not be contained in the 40-man crew abandoned ship. Hundreds had gathered along the shore to watch the vessel burn. The ship grounded near shore and when the ship exploded, it sent a fireball that rose nearly 2 km into the air and spread molten metal for miles around. It also created an 18-meter tsunami that battered the shoreline, dragging spectators into the water. It created a swath of fires and exploding glass that killed workers and schoolchildren in the area.

5. Love Canal


Love Canal makes the list as one of the worst toxic contaminations in the history of man. In the 1940s, the people of Love Canal, New York, near the Niagara Falls, began noticing an odd smell. Soon their yard became filled with an odd seepage and people began to become ill. Many women began having miscarriages and giving birth to babies with severe birth defects. It was found that the strange seepage was the result of toxic industrial waste that was buried below the surface of the town.

4. The Al-Mishraq Fire


Al-Mishraq is a sulfur plant ran by the state located near Mosul, Iraq. In June 2003, the site became one of the worst man-made releases of sulfur dioxide in history. The fire is suspected to have been arson. It burned for about three weeks and released nearly 21,000 tons of sulfur dioxide per day into the atmosphere. It harmed many people in the area, and destroyed crops.

3. Chernobyl

Chernobyl Top Most Popular Memorable Man-Made Disasters in History 2018

Among the different types of disasters that man can create, nuclear disasters tend to inspire the greatest fear. On April 26, 1986, the number four light water graphite moderated reactor at the Chernobyl power plant near the city of Pripyat in the USSR failed. During a stress test, flaws in the reactor combined with hurried actions that were not in compliance with the prescribed checklist resulted in an uncontrolled reaction that created a steam explosion. The steam explosion ignited a graphite fire that burned for nine days, releasing plumes of radiation into the atmosphere is spread over much of the USSR and Europe. It is not known how many cancer deaths can be attributed to the disaster.

2. Deepwater Horizon

Deepwater Horizon Top Famous Memorable Man-Made Disasters in History 2019

Oil spills do not necessarily cause a direct significant loss of human life, but they have a significant impact on human life and the environment that is catastrophic. In April 2010 an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon Macondo oil drilling platform began releasing millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven workers were killed during the initial explosion, but during the 87 days while the spill was unable to be capped, it discharged nearly 210 million US gallons of oil. Economic losses from the spill were over US$37 billion.

1. Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Top Most Famous Memorable Man-Made Disasters in History 2018

War has produced some of the greatest tragedies in human history, but the dates of August 6 and 9, 1945 will go down as two of the darkest days in human history. Regardless of the details and reasoning behind the incident, the loss of life in tragedy cannot be denied. On August 6 United States dropped a nuclear weapon on the city of Hiroshima. Three days later it dropped a larger bomb on the city of Nagasaki. The immediate effects of the bomb killed between 90,000 and 146,000 people in Hiroshima and between 39,000 and 80,000 in Nagasaki. Nearly half of the deaths occurred on the first day, with many more to follow in the weeks and months due to burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries. Miles of the cities were flattened instantly. The heat from the explosion at Nagasaki is estimated to be over 7,000°F and generated winds at over 624 mph.

As one can see from this list, man has capacity to destroy on a scale and magnitude that rivals mother nature’s worst events. Some of these man-made disasters were accidents and oversights and some of them were intentional. There are many others that stand out in the annals of history and cause us to question whether someday we will be the instruments of our own demise.